Examination of Witnesses (Questions 258-259)
MR JOHN DEEGAN, MR MARK BAKER, MR JAMES RUSSELL AND MR JOHN SILVESTER
WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL 2002
258. Can I welcome you to the second session this morning, and ask you to identify yourselves for the record, please?
(Mr Deegan) I am John Deegan, Director of Planning, Transport and Economic Strategy at Warwickshire County Council and Chairman of the County Surveyors' Society's Strategic Planning and Regeneration Committee.
(Mr Baker) I am Mark Baker, I am a lecturer in planning and landscape at the University of Manchester. I am also Chair of the Town and Country Planning Association's Regional Task Team.
(Mr Russell) I am James Russell, I am the Assistant Director of Strategy and Planning at Coventry, which means I am head of planning and transportation, and I am this year's President of the Planning Officers' Society.
(Mr Silvester) John Silvester, Director of Planning and Community Services at Surrey Heath Borough Council. I am the Senior Vice President of the POS.
Chairman: We have had your written evidence. Do you want to add anything briefly, or are you happy just to go straight to questions? Straight to questions.
259. It seems to me from your submissions that you are saying that really there are little problems here and there with the system but it is not too bad, really. Yet, surely, there must be something fairly fundamentally wrong with a planning system if 13 per cent of authorities (the figures we have) still have not got a Local Plan in place and it takes four to five years to carry out even a review of what is already in place. That is not really very good, is it?
(Mr Deegan) Perhaps I can answer first and say that I think we do need to recognise the strengths of the existing planning system, which has served us well in preventing urban sprawl, conserving natural resources and so on. However, the County Surveyors' Society view is that some reform is necessary. However, what we would say is that the key parts of the planning system that are not working at the moment are in relation to delivering development control and the issues about speed and certainty that are raised by business interests, and the delivery of Local Plans. Our concern, in particular, is in relation to strategic planning, which is currently represented in the shire areas of this country through structure planning, and obviously the reform proposal is to abolish structure planning and, indeed, abolish strategic planning in local government. That is why I have asked, as my co-witness for the County Surveyors' Society, Mark Baker to come along this morning. Mr Baker is the co-author of a report that has already been referred to this morning on the examination of the operation and effectiveness of the structure planning process, which is the report that was prepared for DETR some three years ago.